The St. Lawrence River International Border Segment Post-Seaway

The St. Lawrence River International Border Segment Post-Seaway

Student Author: 
Simeon Rivier
Date: 
May 2015
Supervisor(s): 
Mona El Khafif

On June 26th, 1959, the St.Lawrence Seaway & Power project was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, President Dwight Eisenhower, and Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. Construction on the massive civil engineering project had been completed years ahead of schedule, and marked the culmination of decades of planning. The inland shipping route and power project had been the first of its kind ever attempted by two sovereign nations and marked the beginning of a new era in Canada-US trade relations. Part Victorian futurism, part Cold War practicalities, it was only in the decade following the end of the second World War did the United States government recognize the commercial and strategic importance of an expanded inland waterway connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Replacing a series of Canadian built canals along the St. Lawrence, some dating back to the 18th century, the St. Lawrence Seaway could accommodate modern ships with a length of 225.6m, 23.8m wide, with a height of 35.5m. The binational Robert Moses-Robert H. Saunders Power Dam generates 1,957 Megawatts, enough electricity to power a city twice the size of Ottawa. The head water pond for the power project saw the inundation of 100 sqkm and the destruction of some of Ontario’s oldest settlements dating back to the 17th century. The forced relocation of 6,500 citizens and the destruction of their settlements marked a change in landscape between the natural St. Lawrence River Valley to the uniquely hydrologically engineered St. Lawrence Seaway Valley.

Today a half-century after the completion of North America’s largest inland waterway, the St.Lawrence Seaway still plays a pivotal role in the Canadian and United States economies. Maritime commerce on the Great Lakes Seaway System annually sustains more than 225,000 US and Canadian jobs, generating $14.1 billion in personal income generating $4.6 billion in taxes. 90% of Seaway traffic in bulk goods, with iron ore and grains being the largest commodities. One could spend a day along the St. Lawrence River and see multiple massive ships go by within an hour, yet for more than the past decade the system has been only operating at 50% occupancy. The Seaway Max ship ship class, marking the largest ships that can fit within the Seaway Lock system, represents just over 1% of the world commercial fleet. A study by the US Army Corps of Engineers concluded that financial and environmental costs associated with expanding the system could not be justified.

The towns and cities along the St. Lawrence River international border segment have not be immune from the decline in manufacturing and industry. The City of Cornwall is searching for purpose. To begin with, an over view and current status of the St. Lawrence Seaway will be explored. This will be followed by an examination of the towns and cities along the St. Lawrence River international border segment. The population change over the past-quarter century will be illustrated. Contrasting the population growth with the province / state over the past quarter century will reveal the performance of the community within the greater macro trends. This shall be followed with figures on the town or cities density. An exploration of the age demographics and education levels will assess the communities ability to pivot to new economical realities. Lastly, an assessment of the employment rate, average income, and dwelling value shall highlight some of the economical challenges facing the St. Lawrence River international border segment. This is a region that is facing transition at a period fraught with challenges.